Sawyer Mini Filter Review

I’ve started to take a Sawyer Mini water filter on some of my runs. Here I look at how and when it can come in useful.

For most of my runs I don’t take any drink with me, I’m happy to hydrate before and immediately afterwards. However for longer runs (2 hours plus) or on very hot days I tend to take a soft flask or maybe two. In high upland areas such as Scotland and parts of Wales and the Lake District I’m happy to refill or drink straight out of flowing streams but I wouldn’t do this in the Peak District.

This summer I did quite a lot of running on the Pennine Way where there were plenty of water sources although not many that I’d be happy drinking from without first treating it. I also supported on a couple of Bob Graham rounds where I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the quality of the water that I could refill with on route. As a solution to this I bought a Sayer Mini water filter, a neat little filter that only weighs 65g and comes complete with a straw, 490ml pouch and a cleaning syringe. Larger pouches can also be purchased if needed.

photo of Sawyer Mini with pouch, straw and cleaning syringe

Sawyer Mini comes with pouch, straw and cleaning syringe

There are several alternative filters such as the Katadyn Be Free and Salomon XA where the filter is housed within the soft flask itself. These are great if all you want to use them for is drinking from the soft flask but they aren’t as versatile as the Sawyer which can be used in a range of different ways. With an “in flask filter” such as the Katadyn and Salomon if your flask springs a leak then your filter system stops working (unless you have a spare flask). These systems rely on the filter being used only in conjunction with the soft flask. Also, with the Salomon XA be aware that the filter cap doesn’t fit onto Salomon’s existing wide mouth flasks! The threads are slightly different so you can’t just buy the filter, you need the dedicated flask too. In comparison the Sawyer Mini is much more versatile.

The Sawyer Mini is very versatile:

If you want to just take a quick slurp as you go past a water source then the Sawyer with straw attached lets you do that. You could drink straight from a puddle or trickle of water if you were desperate! I can think of a situation on the 2018 OMM Mountain Marathon where I would have done just that had I had the filter!

photo of Sawyer Mini filter and straw

drink straight from a source with the straw

For hill walking or mountain biking or where you prefer to use a conventional bladder system rather than a soft flask then the Sawyer mini can be used with your existing Platypus, Camelback or similar. Simply remove your bite valve and plug in the filter. You could even cut the tube and fix the filter “in line” if you still wanted to use the bite valve.

photo of rucksack and Sawyer Mini filter

using the Sawyer with a conventional bladder

 

photo of Sawyer filter with a bladder

swap the bite valve for the filter

 

photo of Sawyer Mini used "in line"

using the filter “in line” with a bladder

For wild camping or similar where you wanted to filter a larger amount of water you could fill up a large bladder, attach the filter and drink from that as well as using it for cooking. The Sawyer Mini screws directly onto plastic bottles too so these can be used in place of a bladder. To filter water simply invert the bottle or bladder and gravity will do the rest. I haven’t used the Sawyer 490ml pouch yet as I prefer the methods mentioned here instead but it is very lightweight and rolls up easily so is handy to take along if needed.

photo of Sawyer filter with plastic bottle

filter screws onto standard plastic bottles

You can adapt the Sawyer to be used with soft flasks if you have flasks with straws – just remove the bite valve and plug the filter in. If you push the straw down into the flask then the filter will be positioned in an ideal position to drink from. Obviously this depends on your running pack / vest but I found that my Ultimate Direction vest holds the filter snugly in place with no bouncing as it has an elasticated loop that can be used to hold the filter against the shoulder strap (see photo).

photo of Sawyer Mini filter and soft flask for running

using the Sawyer with soft flask on Ultimate Direction vest

 

photo of Sawyer Mini filter on running pack

elastic loop fits over top of filter

Pros:

Versatility – the Sawyer Mini can be used in a wide range of scenarios.
Size and weight – easily fits into a small pocket and weighs only 65g.
Easy clean – comes supplied with a plunger to rinse the filter.

Cons:

Not as easy to use as a dedicated soft flask filter.
Doesn’t screw directly onto Platypus bladder or branded soft flasks.

RRP £35

Can be found cheaper here https://amzn.to/2HY7L9j

Verdict: A really lightweight and versatile piece of kit that is useful for a range of situations, not just fell running.

Full details of the Sawyer Mini here

Note affiliate links: I get a small payment if you purchase via these, it doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

fell running guide logo

Anquet Outdoor Map Navigator (OMN)

Outdoor Map Navigator (OMN) by Anquet is a digital mapping platform that allows you to access maps on your phone and computer.

An annual subscription gives you full GB OS 1:25,000 Explorer and 1:50,000 Landranger maps whilst Harvey 1:25,000 Superwalker and 1:40,000 British Mountain Maps can be purchased individually. Once the free OMN software is downloaded and you set up a cloud based account you then have access to all of the maps on your PC and also on your phone via the OMN app. There are lots of benefits to having mapping on your computer and phone, here are some of the ways I use it.

image of Anquet route planning

Screenshot of Anquet OMN software

On a Computer

Printing Maps

Rather than take a full map out on your walk or run Anquet allows you to select and print the relevant section and just print that. You can print to accurate scale or enlarge it if your eyesight requires. I tend to print the section I need on A4 paper and either laminate it or seal it in a plastic wallet to prevent it getting wet. That way there’s no battling in the wind trying to find the right bit of the map and it is easy to fold and carry the map or put it in a pocket. If the section gets tatty I just print another rather than having to buy a whole new paper map.

photo of map section

Printing the section you need is easier than battling with a full map

Planning a Route

The OMN software is excellent for planning routes on a computer. It’s easy to find accurate grid references and so create waypoints (for example race checkpoints or hill summits) and draw routes between them. The software automatically calculates distance and elevation for each leg so you can decide which route suits you. You can enter your estimated pace (with additional time for climb as with Naismith’s rule) so that you can get an accurate idea of how long a run or walk will take. The software shows you the bearings for each leg which can be really useful as it saves you having to take a bearing off the map – if you were trying to do this in bad weather or whilst in a race there’s more likelihood that you’d make an error than if you’d plotted the bearing beforehand. This picture shows a comparison of two route choices; the long way round or a shorter but steeper direct route with distance, ascent and estimated time for each.

picture of Anquet maps

Comparing route options for Edale Skyline

In 2015 I was course planner for the Rab Mountain Marathon in Snowdonia. I did most of the planning using Harvey maps on Anquet software. One great thing about having the maps on a PC was that I could zoom right in to identify subtle features and get accurate (10 figure) grid references which I plotted as waypoints on the map. At a later date I went out to visit these locations to see how viable they were as “Controls” for the event. Once all the controls were marked it was then possible to plot the most likely routes that competitors would take and thus get a fairly accurate distance and elevation for each course. It was also possible to then predict the winning times.

picture of map with checkpoints

Control planning for the 2015 Rab Mountain Marathon

Reviewing a Route

Another use of the software is the ability to look back on a route, maybe a walk or run and see exactly where you went – it might not always be where you had planned to go! OMN allows you to import a GPX trace, e.g. from a Garmin or similar sports watch and the trace will show your exact route. This image shows 2 routes (downloaded from my Garmin watch) of different ascents of Elidir Fach on Paddy Buckley rounds. These were both done at night and it is interesting to see slightly different route choices each time. Sometimes at night you don’t know exactly where you’ve been!

picture showing different routes on a map

Slightly different routes on the Paddy Buckley Round

Map Updates

Depending on the subscription level you take out you can get Ordnance Survey map updates as often as every 3 months meaning that your map never goes out of date. The new fence lines shown on the updated map below would be really useful if you were navigating across Cartledge Bents in the fog!

comparison of 2 Ordnance Survey maps

Spot the difference? New boundaries and paths on the updated O.S. map

Any map updates, plotted routes or imported routes can be synchronized with your cloud account so that they are available on different devices such as your smartphone.

On a Phone

Note – please do not rely on using just your phone to navigate by, especially in remote areas. Learn to use map and compass and use the phone alongside these.

As well as using OMN on computer you also can use it on a smartphone via the OMN app. With an internet signal you can access everything in your account; maps, plotted routes, waypoints, tracks etc. As you wouldn’t want to rely on having internet access whilst out in the hills you can download the maps that you need to your phone and use them without an internet or mobile signal. With your phone’s location settings enabled you can get an accurate fix showing your current position and grid reference (I opt for 8 figure in settings) and you also can record a tracklog which draws a trace on the map showing where you have been. Be aware that having your phone’s screen on for prolonged periods will drain the battery as will using it in cold weather – see note above!

Planning a Route

As on a computer, it is possible to plot a route by using the touch screen on your phone although for ease and accuracy it I’d recommend doing this on your computer then uploading it to your phone. Cold, fat fingers are a lot less accurate than a big screen and a computer mouse!

Recording a Route

If you want to go for a walk or run and look back afterwards to see exactly where you went you can record a tracklog on your phone. You simply open the app and start recording when you set off. The route (track) that you take will appear as a line on the map. When you finish, stop the tracklog and details such as time, distance elevation etc will be saved and you can look at the traced line to see where you went. This image shows me using the phone app during a run – the red circle is my current position and the pale blue line shows my route.

photo of map on a smartphone

Using OMN app on smartphone

Following a Route

If you have uploaded a route to your account, either by plotting it on the map or uploading a GPX file, it is then very easy to follow it using your phone. The route will show up as a coloured line on the map as will your current position (via satellite) which shows if you are on the route or have deviated off it. I work on events such as Skyline Scotland where all the race routes are marked out with flags for the runners to follow. This involves placing flags over many kilometres of mountain terrain, sometimes in bad weather yet it is vital that the race route is marked accurately. Having the exact route on a phone which can be checked whilst placing the flags helps ensure that the race route gets marked correctly. This picture shows the Ring of Steall race route (purple line) loaded onto my phone for use whilst course marking.

photo of map on mobile phone

Ring of Steall race route shown on phone

Race Recces

Being able to see an accurate trace of where you’ve been and where you are can be very useful in helping you prepare for certain races. The High Peak Marathon is an overnight race across some remote and pathless Peak District terrain and “reccying” the route by trying out different route options can make the difference between getting a dry line and ending thigh deep in bog. This image shows how I looked at two different route options for one particular section of the race. As the use of GPS is not allowed during the race I needed to know accurate bearings and timings which I was able to take from the tracklog I recorded.

picture of map and GPS route

Looking for a dry line! Trace showing recce of different routes

As a Learning Tool

GPS devices and maps on phones get a lot of negative press but if used correctly they can be valuable learning tools. They can actually help you improve your navigation. I use phone mapping on my navigation courses to allow people to review their decisions and check the accuracy of their navigation. The following image is from a night navigation course where the participants were trying to follow a bearing from A to B across open moorland. They should have been heading on a southwesterly bearing at all times but the blue circles show that on two occasions they were actually heading due west. Being able to show them their actual route immediately afterwards was quite enlightening for them as they swore that they had constantly been heading SW. The satellite doesn’t lie!

image of GPS trace on a map

Using GPS track to review a navigation exercise

Using the Map

Although you are somewhat limited by the size of the screen you can simply use the map on your phone as you would a paper map. Putting the phone into airplane mode will prolong the life of the battery. I actually use an old phone without a sim card that has maps installed onto it that I use when practising or teaching navigation. One advantage is that you can really zoom in to see subtle contour features, particularly useful if you usually need reading glasses. This image shows a screenshot from my phone where I’ve zoomed in to see fine detail compared to the same area on a paper map.

photo of map on smartphone

You can’t zoom in on a paper map!

Anquet Oudoor Map Navigator is great for printing maps, planning routes, reviewing walks or runs and to aid navigation. It can also be very useful as a tool to improve navigation skills. Various subscription levels are available, click on banner image below for full details:


Harvey Map extracts used with permission are the 1:25,000 Superwalker map of Snowdonia 

 

fell running guide logo

Short Runs in Beautiful Places

Short Runs in Beautiful Places is a guidebook of 100 trail runs on land maintained by the National Trust.

Known for their previous trail running guidebooks, Jen and Sim Benson have produced another well researched and beautifully presented guidebook. It is full of colour photographs and each route has details of how to get there (by car and public transport), easy to follow route descriptions, maps and some interesting facts and bits of history along with suggestions of other things to do or places to visit in the local area.book - short runs in beautiful places

The guidebook covers Great Britain with routes ranging from the coastal paths of Cornwall through Wales, Scotland and even includes a couple in Northern Ireland. There are routes for everyone from parents with buggies to those seeking more challenging technical trails. Woods, parks, meadows, beaches and more remote uplands are all included.

Short Runs in Beautiful Places is a great book for planning runs in new places and is ideal for families who want to plan a day out that maybe combines a run with other attractions.

RRP £12.99 Published by National Trust Books

 fell running guide logo

The Rise of the Ultra Runners – Book Review

Until relatively recently completing a marathon was seen as the pinnacle of a runner’s achievement.

Once they had completed the 26.2 miles runners tended to then strive to do it faster, but not many chose to run further. However recent years have seen a boom in “Ultra Running” with runners swapping tarmac for trails and often covering 30, 50 or 100 miles and in some cases even further over several days. In his book The Rise of the Ultra Runners (A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance) Adharanand Finn looks into what is behind the desire to go further, to push on for longer and to endure what was not long ago thought to be mad or even impossible.

The Rise of the Ultra Runners book

The Rise of the Ultra Runners

The author was already a fairly experienced road runner when his work as a journalist led him to take the step into ultra running; The Financial Times wanted an article about the Oman Desert Marathon, a multi day stage race and Finn decided that it would be an adventure. This led him on a journey to find out what motivates people to take part in such events and also, having survived 100 miles in the desert, to wonder how far he could push his own physical boundaries. So from there he set about accumulating enough qualifying points to enter and then complete the Ultra Tour of Mont Blanc. Along the way he delves deep into the ultra running scene, interviewing and spending time with some of the sport’s top runners and competing in races in the UK, Europe, South Africa and the USA.

The book gives an interesting insight from two fronts  – there’s the journalistic aspect where Finn interviews some of the sport’s biggest names (including Kilian Jornet, Sage Canaday, Zach Miller, Elisabet Barnes, Damian Hall) and also a personal one as he recounts the highs of finishing and the lows of pain, suffering and hallucinations that he experiences whilst taking part in various races. Finn touches on the questions around doping in the sport and also discusses why – when the marathon running world is dominated by Kenyan and Ethiopian runners – there are no East Africans on the Ultra Running scene.

The Rise of the Ultra Runners gives a fascinating insight into the world of ultra distance running. You don’t need to be an ultra runner yourself to enjoy it but it will certainly appeal to anyone interested in running further than 26.2 miles.

 

fell running guide logo

Last Women Standing – The Barkley Marathons Film

The Barkley Marathons is a notoriously tough, ultra distance race which only 15 people have ever completed since it was first staged in 1986. No Woman had ever completed it.

Last Women Standing is a film by Summit Fever Media following Inov-8 ambassador and ultra-running record holder Nicky Spinks as she takes on one of the world’s most notorious and secretive sporting events.

The 100+ mile race takes place in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee and requires the competitors to navigate 5 laps, each involving around 10,000ft of brutally steep, obstacle-laden, muddy mountain ascent through thick woodland and vicious, spiky undergrowth that shreds both clothing and skin. The park surrounds Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, a now derelict maximum-security prison. The impenetrable surroundings have accounted for several failed jail breaks.

The film gives an insight into Nicky’s build up, from the unique application process to the hours before the race where her preparation is made more difficult because runners don’t know the exact time the race will start. Competitors are told of a 12 hour window during which race organiser “Lazarus Lake” will blow a conch – that signifies one hour until start time. Competitors then have 60 hours to complete the 5 laps, ripping out pages from books en-route as proof that they have visited the correct checkpoints. Asked by the film crew if he thinks this will be the year that a woman completes the race Laz replies with a chuckle “No!”

image from Barkley Marathons film

Laz checks Nicky out at the start of a lap

Frozen Head is notorious for its bad weather but the race begins in hot conditions before nightfall sees the temperatures plummet and the runners battling against wind, rain and snow. As other runners drop out (signified by the sound of a bugle) Nicky teams up with fellow female ultra-runner and Barkley veteran Stephanie Case from Canada and the race “virgin and veteran” work together in an attempt to become the first women to complete the grueling challenge. Will they be successful or will the bugle sound for them?

You can watch a trailer of the film here:

The film will have its online international premiere on Tuesday November 19th. Sign up now with inov-8 to watch the free online film premiere: www.inov-8.com/last-women-standing

Osprey Duro 15 Review

The Duro 15 is the largest of Osprey’s three backpacks designed for trail running.

Having already tested and used the smallest pack, the Duro 1.5, I was keen to look to the other end of the size scale to see what the 15 litre version had to offer.

Features:
The first thing I noticed about the Duro 15 was the number of storage options; the pack has no less than 8 zipped pockets and 5 mesh pockets, all of various sizes! The main zipped compartment on the back can easily hold items such as spare clothes, emergency shelter, waterproofs etc. whilst a rear stretch mesh pocket with clips gives faster access to items; useful when it’s an on – off waterproof day. A smaller rear, zipped pocket has a retaining clip for keys and can fit a wallet or phone. Two decent sized side zip pockets are big enough for hat, gloves and food and are just about accessible without having to be double jointed! I found that these side pockets are also deep enough to hold rigid water bottles without them bouncing out whilst running.

photo of Osprey Duro 15

rear side pockets can be reached without being double-jointed!

The zipped pockets on each hip are easily accessed on the run and provide another option for smaller items such as snacks, gels, compass, car keys etc. Finally a zipped pocket on one side of the chest is just large enough to fit a phone although it’s a tight fit if you have a full soft-flask on the same side.

photo of Osprey Duro 15

zipped hip pockets are easily accessible

 

photo of Osprey Duro 15

2 mesh pockets and a zipped chest pocket holds a phone

On the front straps there are two deep, mesh pockets that house the soft-flasks or can be used as storage (another option for accessible phone storage). They also have elastic retainers for the soft flasks and an emergency whistle. Two smaller mesh pockets below these would hold a compass, gels, electrolyte or salt tablets etc. There are also two elasticated pole loops on the top shoulders for carrying lightweight hiking poles when not in use. To be honest I didn’t try to use these as I don’t have any poles, but I can’t see that they would be particularly easy to access whilst wearing the pack.

The Duro 15 offers versatile hydration options coming supplied with two 500ml soft-flasks with straws and a 2.5 litre bladder that fits into a dedicated zipped pocket with clip to keep the bladder in position. The bladder has a wide mouth which makes refilling and adding energy or electrolyte powder easy and the hose has a clever disconnector which allows the bladder to be removed whilst keeping the hose in place. This is really useful for mid run refills and stops you having to unthread and re-thread the hose and also makes for easier cleaning. The hose has a bite valve with a twist closure to prevent accidental leakage. Whilst running the hose can be kept in place by a strong magnet that attaches to the sternum strap. This does a surprisingly good job at keeping the hose in place but has the downside that you need to keep your compass well away from it! The magnet is easily removable if this is an issue and I’d recommend taking it off if you are using a compass.

photo of Osprey Duro 15 bladder

wide mouth 2.5L bladder and hose connector

If you don’t want to use the bladder, then two 500ml soft-flasks (supplied) can be stored in mesh pockets on the front of the pack on the lower chest. The long straws make drinking on the go fairly easy, however I found it quite difficult to get the full bottles into their pockets as the fit was too tight. Also it wasn’t possible to put the straws behind the straps designed to keep them in place without bending them in half (something I’m not sure is good for the straws). Osprey do make smaller 250ml flasks which are a better fit.

photo of Osprey Duro 15

500ml soft flasks: tight fit and the straw is difficult to position

The Duro 15 is a unisex pack that comes in two sizes, Small / Medium or Medium / Large, mine being the smaller version. There is lots of scope for adjusting the pack with tensioning straps on the front, hips and waist plus elasticated straps across the chest that can be unclipped and attached in a number of positions.

photo of girl wearing Osprey Duro 15

unisex fit in 2 sizes

photo of Osprey Duro 15 adjustment straps

straps allow the pack to be adjusted to fit

The elasticated straps allow your ribcage to expand and so don’t restrict your breathing. The chest straps can be unclipped single handedly although I found them a little tricky to fasten at first. The back is slightly padded with a mesh design to help breathability and I found the pack comfortable, although as with any pack without a “back plate” you need to pack carefully to ensure that nothing hard digs in and causes discomfort.

photo of Osprey Duro 15

adjustable, elasticated chest straps and magnet for hose

At a touch over 500 grams the Duro 15 isn’t a super-light pack, but this means it is more comfortable and has more features than a lighter pack. With an RRP of £140 it isn’t cheap, but it feels like it is built to last.

What would I use it for?

The Duro 15 isn’t designed as a lightweight race vest, it is more suited to longer days on the hill where you need to carry more equipment, for example mountain running in winter or in bad conditions. It would also be a good choice for multi day races and it has become my go to pack or for supporting long distance challenges, using it on the Bob Graham and Paddy Buckley Rounds where I needed to carry equipment for someone else as well as my own. I would also use it as a summer walking pack.

wearing the Duro 15 on Bob Graham support

wearing the Duro 15 on Bob Graham support

Pros:

Loads of storage, good hydration options, comfortable, durable.

Cons:

Not cheap. Difficult to get the 500ml bottles into their pockets!

Verdict:

A comfortable pack with lots of storage and hydration options. Ideal for long, remote runs, multi day events or runs where slightly more carrying capacity is needed.

RRP £140

Available from Osprey https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/gb_en/duro-15-2019

fell running guide logo

Veloforte Energy Bars – Review

Veloforte offer a range of energy bars designed to fuel endurance athletes whilst using natural ingredients.

I’m always keen to try different products to fuel my long runs and races and I much prefer to eat things with “real food” in them rather relying on gels. Veloforte offer just that, tasty products using natural ingredients. Inspired by the Italian Panforte – a special food that was reputed to fuel the Roman Legions – Veloforte bars are now hand made in the UK. The bars come in three flavours; Classico, Ciocco and Di Bosco and each have their own distinctive taste. The Classico has a slightly Christmas cake taste with its candied peel and orange zest, the Ciocco a deep cocoa whilst pistachios and berries flavour the Di Bosco bar. (I personally prefer the deep, dark yet not too sweet chocolate taste of the Ciocco bar.)

photo of Veloforte energy bars

Veloforte, Italian inspired energy bars

The bars come individually wrapped as a 70g serving with just less than 300Kcal per bar so contain plenty of energy to fuel long days on the hill. The bars are quite dense and chewy so are more suited to use on ultra type events or long training sessions rather than as a quick fix during a shorter race. All three bars also contain almonds and have around 5g of protein so make a good post run snack to help recovery.

photo of Veloforte Ciocco bar

datey, nutty, chocolatey – tasty!

As well as being available as individually wrapped bars Veloforte also offer a Mixed Bites bag. This contains all three flavours of bar but pre cut into bite sized pieces. This is ideal if you want to eat little and often and solves the problem of what to do with a half eaten, unwrapped bar. The bite sized pieces come in a handy zip lock type bag which is ideal for stuffing into your bumbag or running pack pocket for easy access on the go.

photo of Veloforte Mixed Bites

handy bite sized lumps in the Mixed Bites bag

Verdict – Tasty with good blend of Carbohydrate and Protein and using natural ingredients, Veloforte bars are ideal for fueling long distance endurance events. I’d include them in my nutrition for events such as the High Peak Marathon or the Bob Graham Round where the pace is slow enough in places to allow you to chew and breathe at the same time! They also make a good post race snack.

photo showing Veloforte nutrition information

Veloforte nutrition information

Veloforte energy bars are available here: https://veloforte.cc/

fell running guide logo

Copper Clothing Compression Socks

I’m a fan of compression socks, so was interested to come across these from Copper Clothing Ltd which have copper infused into the fabric.

Although there is mixed evidence that compression clothing leads to a performance benefit and aids recovery (see here and here), I still think that the jury is out, however, I choose to wear compression socks or calf guards for certain runs. In cold weather I find that they help keep my calves warm, particularly important if I’m doing faster training or hill repetitions. They also help protect my legs if running through bracken or heather and they can also help prevent tick bites in summer where the advice is to cover the skin in known tick habitats.

photo of runner wearing Copper Clothing compression socks

Copper Clothing compression socks

What’s so special about copper? According to Copper Clothing’s website copper has anti-microbial properties which can kill off any bacteria and so help prevent problems such as fungal infections and athlete’s foot. If you’ve ever left a pair of damp running shoes in a warm place for a couple of days the smell will tell you that there’s something starting to fester in there! Wet feet are a fell runner’s occupational hazard all year round, whilst in summer, sweaty feet and moist shoes are are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria – have you ever seen a fell runner with nice feet?! So a pair of socks that help keep your feet healthy sounds like a good idea.

photo of running in puddle

wet feet – a fell runner’s occupational hazard

On test – I’ve been testing the socks for a couple of weeks now and have worn them in some pretty soggy conditions. I like the fit which is snug but not too tight and they aren’t too tight across the foot which makes them easy to get on. I had three wet runs in them before washing them, I just hung them on a chair near the radiator to dry out and they didn’t smell! Copper Clothing claim that washing the socks doesn’t diminish the properties of the copper so hopefully the benefits will last for the lifetime of the sock. Time will tell how durable they are.

photo of Copper Clothing socks

snug fit but not too tight

When would I wear them? As well as in the conditions previously mentioned I think these socks would be worth using on long runs when your feet are going to get damp – that could be most of the time in the UK. Or on long runs when your feet are going to get sweaty – which is the rest of the time! They would be ideal for a long “Round” such as the Bob Graham, pity I didn’t have them last year on the Bob Graham Round where I spent 21 hours in the same pair of wet socks!

RRP – £15.99 available here:


 

Verdict – Although I’m not convinced of the benefits of compression in itself, I do like to wear long socks for certain runs. These Copper Clothing socks are comfortable and affordable and hopefully will help keep my feet healthy – quite a challenge considering the amount of time I spend running in wet, muddy conditions.

fell running guide logo

Adventure Medical Kits – Emergency Bivvy

If I am running in a remote area or in winter I carry an Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy with me.

photo of Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy

Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy

This small, lightweight sleeping bag type bivvy bag is a great piece of kit which will take up hardly any room in your bumbag or pack. If the worse thing should happen and you or a mate gets injured whilst out running in bad weather then this could really help prevent hypothermia whilst you wait for mountain rescue.

The bivvy is basically a large bag made of heat reflective polythene that you can get in to. As it is a bag rather than a blanket it traps heat effectively and is totally windproof thus creating a protective environment for anyone who is immobilised. Note that it is not breathable and so condensation will build up in it over time so it is not suitable as a sleeping bag!

photo of Adventure Medical Kits heat reflective bivvy bag

Adventure Medical Kits heat reflective bivvy bag

Unlike the traditional plastic orange bivvy bag, this version is made of much thinner polythene meaning that it packs far smaller and so is suited to packing into a bumbag or similar. They are available in different sizes i.e. one or two person, I use the smaller version.

Some mountain races and long winter races such as the Trigger have emergency bag /  bivvy on the mandatory kit list. the AMK one is ideal. At around £15 it really is an essential piece of kit for anyone running in more remote areas.

river crossing on the Trigger race

imagine waiting for Mountain Rescue here!

Kahtoola & Chainsen Snowline Microspikes Review

Running in icy conditions can be hazardous but thanks to Microspikes you can still enjoy those cold, crisp winter days.

What are Microspikes?

Basically they are a form of crampon designed for walking or running rather than climbing. They consist of a set of small, stainless steel spikes connected by chains and attached to a piece of tough rubber (an elastomer). They are designed so that they can be worn on your footwear simply by stretching the rubber cradle over your shoes.

photo of Microspikes attached to a running shoe

Microspikes attached to a running shoe

Microspikes attached to a running shoe

Microspikes held in place by a strong rubber cradle

Kahtoola microspikes are probably the best known brand but I also have some Chainsen Snowline Snowspikes which are virtually identical (but a bit cheaper!) I have the Light version which only weigh 235g for a Medium sized pair. The Kahtoolas are slightly heavier at 338g. They are available in different size ranges, I’ve found that you need have them quite tight to prevent them coming off whilst running through deep snow.

Chainsen Snowline Microspikes on scales

The Chainsen Snowline spikes, 235g size Medium

What conditions are they for?

The sharp spikes grip really well on smooth ice and hard packed, frozen snow. It takes a bit of time to build up your confidence but after a while you realise that you can run at your normal pace, even on the iciest of surfaces. Whilst they can be worn in snow they don’t really offer much more grip than a running shoe with a good tread.  They also work well on frozen ground such as grass and mud, even if there is no ice cover. You tend to find that you alter your stride slightly and land more flat footed than you would ordinarily do. Whilst they aren’t uncomfortable initially they can start to hurt a little if running for long periods on very hard surfaces. I once ran for about 15 miles wearing a pair and the soles of my feet were a bit sore afterwards!

photo of runner wearing Microspikes

Microspikes work best on hard ice

Most winter runs involve a variety of conditions; you might be running through fresh snow where few people have been but then encounter a well walked path where the snow has been compacted and refrozen. The first part wouldn’t require spikes but the second bit could be pretty treacherous. The good thing about both Kahtoola and Chainsen Microspikes is that their size and weight means that they can easily be carried in a bumbag or running pack and it only takes a few seconds to put them on. So you can take them on a run, put them on if you encounter any icy stretches and quickly take them off afterwards. The Chainsen spikes even come in a tough little pouch to prevent the spikes from damaging your bag.

photo of Chainsen Snowline with sturdy pouch

Chainsen Snowline with sturdy pouch

I have used them for winter running in the Peak District and also on a recce of the Charlie Ramsay Round in spring when conditions were still wintry. (note Microspikes are not suitable for ice climbing!)

runner wearing Chainsen Snowline spikes

I used Chainsen Microspikes whilst recceing the Charlie Ramsay Round

Are they worth it?

At around £40 a pair they are worth getting if you intend to continue running outdoors throughout the winter. They don’t need to be confined to running, they can be worn over walking boots and even shoes meaning that you can tackle the icy pavements with confidence. I know people who’ve worn them for a trip to the pub!

So, if we continue to have cold winters a pair of Microspikes are a good investment, allowing you to enjoy running safely in conditions like this!

photo of running wearing microspikes

safe running wearing microspikes

The video below shows how easy the spikes are to put on and how effective they are on icy terrain: